Chicos, I haven’t blogged for a while — you may, or you may not, have noticed.
There are two reasons for this.
Firstly, I have been working flat out on my novel — Compound 19 — which is now completed and off to my agent. In case you missed my Twitbook post, fear not… it’ll be in the shops in time for Christmas, so that’s one less present you need to worry about.
The second reason is that I feel as if I’ve spent all of this year either on the road, in the air or in an airport, and frankly, my travel itch has been well and truly scratched.
I recently made the mistake of hiring
out my apartment, which left me homeless. As a result, I spent three weeks aimlessly wandering around a wet, cold, miserable and overcrowded England. Thankfully though, I am now back in Marbella, and that’s it for this year.
As you may already know, my journeying took me to Australia and New Zealand, and I am still in a semi-state of Post Traumatic Stress from this.
I remember, as a teenager, my father reciting a very old joke, relating women to continents:
At various times in her life, a woman is like the continents of the world. From 13 to 18, she’s like Africa — virgin territory. From 18 to 30, she’s like Asia — hot and exotic. From 30 to 45, she’s like America — fully explored and free with her resources. From 45 to 55, she’s like Europe — exhausted, but not without places of interest. From 55 onwards, she’s like Australia — everybody knows it’s down there, but nobody wants to go there.
I thought it was pretty crass back then, but now I can see he had a point.
It’s a dreadful place, Australia, and New Zealand in winter isn’t much better.
And so amigos, as I had neither the time nor the inclination to blog much when I was down under, I’m going to try to make up for this now by doing one of those little ‘Compare and Contrast’ exercises we all knew and loved as students of A level English Literature.
You know the sort: ‘Compare and contrast Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse to a pile of horse manure.’
So let’s, for the hell of it, compare and contrast Australia and New Zealand to
Spain. Let’s sharpen up the definition and call it Australasia; this, according to
Mr Google, ‘…a is region of Oceania, comprising Australia, New Zealand, neighbouring islands in the Pacific Ocean and, sometimes, Papua New Guinea. But I’m going to pull Papua New Guinea out of this exercise, as I actually liked it, and it was the only true place of interest that we went to.
To compare is to look for similarities.
There are none, so that’s that bit done.
To contrast is to look for differences among two or more elements, so let’s go for this.
- Let’s Start With Women.
Now I realize this is highly likely to cause offence, but as I’ve already offended all women over the age of 55, I suspect my card is marked already.
So… women: you wouldn’t want to go to Australasia looking for a wife.
In six weeks, I saw three good-looking women in Australia and none in New Zealand. And I didn’t even go into the bush (err… maybe that’s an injudicious choice of words, I mean the outback). In fact, there were more attractive women headed for pissed-up hen parties in Puerto Banus on the flight from Gatwick to Malaga than in the entire Australasian continent. And in Spain, there are more beautiful women per square kilometer than anywhere else in the world — except maybe Argentina, but that’s pretty much the same thing. So that’s a good example of how to contrast.
- The Price of Everything.
Spain, despite the Brexit madness that has wrecked the value of the pound, is dirt-cheap and Australasia is absurdly expensive. You’d be pushed to get a beer for less that a tenner (stirling) and we once stayed in a hotel in Rotorua — I’ll admit it was pretty plush, but we were only there for about twelve hours — that cost $950 for a chalet. Each. That’s £534.47, folks.
- The Countryside
Despite being advised not to do so, we took a road trip from Cairns to the Gold
Coast. My friend lent us his 6.3l AMG G Wagon (which I referred to as the G Spot on one occasion, when I couldn’t find it) so at least we travelled in comfort if not at speed.
The national speed limit is 100kph (62mph) and boy do they enforce it. I got caught doing 116kph on one occasion and that cost me — as if I further needed to contribute to their economy — $160 (£98.73).
Including a detour to visit a college mate who lives (with one of the three beautiful women in Australasia — Pete — if you’re reading this) in Toowoomba, the 1841km journey took us five days, car-bound for up to six hours a day.
Once you leave Northern Queensland, there are no towns other than Townsville
and McKay — for these think Northampton and Milton Keynes. The road (there is only one, the A1) is single carriageway and mind-numbingly boring.
No one uses roads between cities except stupid people who don’t want to fly,
traffic cops and numerous but highly unfortunate kangaroos/wallabies who get terminated by the very occasional passing vehicle. There is no scenery; just mile after mile of empty apace.
And Spain? I can drive the 1,098km from Santander to Marbella on toll-free, cop-free dual carriageways in a day, if I want to. I usually don’t though, for the simple reason that there is too much of interest to see and visit.
Returning from England last week, we spend two nights in Salamanca and
another in Llerena, a beautiful and traditional small ‘white’ town to the northeast of Sevilla.
- Political Correctness.
I don’t know if there is an official government department that specialises in preventing people enjoying themselves in Australia, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there were.
A pompous waiter (ponytail and bald spot) refused to serve my girlfriend a drink in a pretentious Brisbane restaurant because she was ‘showing early signs of inebriation.’
“Early signs of inebriation?” I asked. “What the f**k is the point of having a drink then?” Needless to say that was the only tip I gave BSPT (BaltSpotPonytail).
And on the flight from Auckland to Brisbane, the trolley guy said we could only have one alcoholic drink at a time, due to Australian legislation.
You are regarded as a pariah if you smoke, don’t jog constantly or sit in the sun. Ironically — as Australia is a country founded on the ingress of criminals for whom we had neither room nor a desire to keep — if you have a criminal record, you can forget about going there.
I don’t, by the way, but I may just get one in case I ever need a cast iron excuse not to go back there.
As for Spain, while Spaniards have a surprising culture of adherence to law and order, you would practically have to be unconscious, face down in your tapas, to be refused another glass of very acceptable vino Blanco, costing a mere €1.50.
I could go on but I won’t. “Say something good about Australia and New Zealand…please?” I hear you say.
Okay then — the people were pretty friendly and they do awesome breakfasts. I’ll
accept I didn’t go to New Zealand at the best time of year (we only went for the Lions’ matches, and it rained all the time) but I won’t be going back, thanks.
Maybe someday I’ll have fond memories of the trip, but for now I’m sitting on the terrace in the only place I want to be — my penthouse Marbella apartment, staring at the sparkling Mediterranean beneath a clear blue sky.
Hasta pronto, chicas!